Lazy Caturday Reads

Arsen Kurbanov

Painting by Arsen Kurbanov

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was a busy news day and a very bad day for Donald Trump. The Justice Department has ordered the IRS to hand over his taxes to the House Ways and Means Committee and new evidence was revealed about his efforts to get Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to help overturn the 2020 election.

The New York Times: Treasury must turn over Trump’s taxes to Congress, the Justice Dept. says.

The Treasury Department must turn over six years of former President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns to House investigators, the Justice Department said in a legal opinion issued on Friday that most likely paves the way for their eventual release to Congress and potentially to the public.

Hours later, the Treasury told a federal judge that it planned to move ahead.

The 39-page opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel dealt a sharp legal blow to a yearslong campaign by Mr. Trump to keep his tax information secret, reversing a Trump administration position that had shielded the documents from Congress.

Portrait of Gerrit Komrij - Theo Daamen, 1986 Dutch, b.1939

Portrait of Gerrit Komrij, by Theo Daamen, 1986 Dutch, b.1939

Rejecting that view, the Biden administration opinion said that a request for the tax information first lodged in 2019 by the House Ways and Means Committee was legitimate and that the Treasury Department had no valid grounds to refuse it.

“The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former president’s tax information,” the opinion said. “Treasury must furnish the information to the committee.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill, who said they aim to examine the I.R.S.’s presidential audit program and Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest, hailed the decision as a victory for congressional oversight powers and for national security. The House had sued to enforce the request after the Trump Treasury Department objected, and litigation continues.

“The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a valedictory statement.

Katie Benner at The New York Times: Trump Pressed Justice Dept. to Declare Election Results Corrupt, Notes Show.

President Donald J. Trump pressed top Justice Department officials late last year to declare that the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud, so he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the results, according to new documents provided to lawmakers.

The demands were an extraordinary instance of a president interfering with an agency that is typically more independent from the White House to advance his personal agenda. They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s wide-ranging campaign during his final weeks in office to delegitimize the election results.

White-Cat-with-Crescent-Moon-Gertrude-Abercrombie, 1909-1977

White Cat with Crescent Moon, Gertrude-Abercrombie, 1909-1977

The exchange unfolded during a phone call on Dec. 27 in which Mr. Trump pressed the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and his deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, on voter fraud claims that the Justice Department had found no evidence for. Mr. Donoghue warned that the department had no power to change the outcome of the election. Mr. Trump replied that he did not expect that, according to notes Mr. Donoghue took memorializing the conversation.

“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” and to congressional allies, Mr. Donoghue wrote in summarizing Mr. Trump’s response.

Mr. Trump did not name the lawmakers, but at other points during the call, he mentioned Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, whom he described as a “fighter”; Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, who at the time promoted the idea that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump; and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, whom Mr. Trump praised for “getting to bottom of things.”

A bit more:

The phone call by Mr. Trump was perhaps the most audacious moment in a monthslong pressure campaign aimed at enlisting the Justice Department in his crusade to overturn the election results.

After the departure of Mr. Rosen’s predecessor, William P. Barr, became public on Dec. 14, Mr. Trump and his allies harangued Mr. Rosen and his top deputies nearly every day until Jan. 6, when Congress met to certify the Electoral College and was disrupted by Mr. Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol, according to emails and other documents obtained by Congress and interviews with former Trump administration officials.

The conversations often included complaints about unfounded voter fraud conspiracy theories, frustration that the Justice Department would not ask the Supreme Court to invalidate the election and admonishments that department leaders had failed to fight hard enough for Mr. Trump, the officials said.

The Justice Department provided Mr. Donoghue’s notes to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the Trump administration’s efforts to unlawfully reverse the election results.

leonard tsuguharu foujita, Japanese-French, 1886-1968

Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Japanese-French, 1886-1968

So it looks like we’ll be following more Congressional investigations of the the former guy in the near future. You can read specifics of Trump’s demands at that link.

David A. Graham at The Atlantic: The Insurrection Was Just Part of the Plot.

…[T]he House Oversight Committee shed more light this week on just how and why January 6 happened, releasing handwritten notes by Richard Donoghue, a top Justice Department official in the waning days of the Trump administration. The violence of the day has taken center stage, but these notes help put it in context: The angry crowd was just one part of President Donald Trump’s long-running effort to overturn the results of the election in the House of Representatives.

Trump’s effort to call the election results into doubt began long before the votes were cast, but it accelerated immediately after the election. As I wrote on January 26, Trump’s coup attempt started not on January 6 but in the wee hours of November 4, when Trump said at the White House, “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election.” He added: “Frankly, we did win this election.” (He did not, and was not being frank.)

In November and early December, the focus of Trump’s efforts was pressuring state officials in places such as Arizona and Georgia to decline to certify results in favor of Biden, and pressing Attorney General William Barr to cast doubt on the results. But Barr declined, breaking with Trump, and so did pivotal Republicans including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Once Barr was pushed aside, The Washington Post reported this week, Trump began a daily campaign to pressure Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen into doing what Barr would not, trying to place new claims of fraud before the Justice Department. Unbeknownst to Rosen, Trump was also orchestrating a plan to topple him.

Pierre Bonnard, 1867-1947

Pierre Bonnard, 1867-1947

What Trump hoped to achieve from these efforts has always been a little hazy. The Justice Department doesn’t certify elections, and at most could have pursued fraud claims in court—had there been any credible ones, which there were not. The new releases by the House Oversight Committee, first reported by The New York Times,connect the dots. Donoghue explained to Trump that the DOJ couldn’t overturn the result, but the president was unruffled.

“Don’t expect you to do that, just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R[epublican] Congressmen” is how Donoghue recorded Trump’s response in handwritten notes.

All Trump wanted was some semi-independent arbiter to declare the election fraudulent—whether that was the governor of Arizona, the Georgia secretary of state, or the U.S. Justice Department. This much was clear even then, but Trump’s endgame was not. After all, Democrat Joe Biden’s lead was wide enough that a single state declining to certify or a single fraud case couldn’t have erased it. Trump, despite his weakness for conspiracy theories, understood that. But he didn’t need any of these officials to set aside the results on their own. He just needed enough ammunition, no matter how tenuous, that he could derail certification of the election in Congress.

If the election couldn’t be decided based on the results, then it would go to the House of Representatives. Though Democrats held a majority there, the presidency would have been decided by state delegations, of which Republicans controlled more.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

More stories on Trump’s attempts to subvert the DOJ and his coup attempt:

Margaret Carlson at The Daily Beast: Damn Right Jan. 6 Was a Coup—This Was Trump’s Call That Led There.

Andy Wright at Just Security: Trump inadvertently made key admission in calls to DOJ: impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman.

Raw Story: Trump inadvertently made key admission in calls to DOJ: impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman.

Carel Willink, Crayon drawing of a cat with attitude, 1976

Carel Willink, Crayon drawing of a cat with attitude, 1976

Is Trump still trying to get himself “reinstated” as president? I wouldn’t be surprised. A couple of stories that suggest there’s still something going on.

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: WATCH: Mark Meadows Says Trump Meeting with ‘Cabinet Members’ at Jersey Golf Club About ‘Moving Forward in a Real Way.’

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that former President Donald Trump has been meeting with “cabinet members” at his New Jersey golf resort, mysteriously adding that they’re planning to “move forward in a real way.”

On Friday night’s edition of Newsmax’s Cortes & Pellegrino, Meadows defended Trump’s failed endorsement in a Texas special election runoff, saying “the magic is still there.”

He added that Trump is “a president that is fully engaged, highly focused, and remaining on task.” [….]

As he did throughout the interview, Meadows referred to Trump in the present-tense “the president,” and described meeting with “members of our cabinet”:

“Well, we met with several of our cabinet members tonight, we actually had a follow-up member, meeting with some of our cabinet members, and as we were looking at that, we were looking at what does come next. I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of the president, but I can tell you this steve. We wouldn’t be meeting tonight if we weren’t making plans to move forward in a real way, with president Trump at the head of that ticket.”

Although Meadows’ linguistic cues suggested some sort of alt-presidency, the rest of his remarks appeared to refer only to future elections. Meadows did not mention any discussion of a potential Trump “reinstatement” to the presidency, a notion that has been popular with Trump supporters, and reportedly with Trump himself.

Then why did he refer to Trump as “the president?”

Hernán Valdovinos, 1948

Hernán Valdovinos, 1948

Raw Story: Mike Lindell is now hoping Supreme Court allows a do-over election: ‘Maybe that’s a thing.’

On the far-right Brandon Howse Live radio program on Friday, MyPillow CEO and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell suggested that perhaps the Supreme Court will allow a do-over of the election without electronic voting machines.

“So maybe the Supreme Court will say, hey, let’s have another — let’s do another election without machines,” said Lindell. “You know. Maybe that’s a thing.”

Lindell, who this week withdrew all his advertising from Fox News due to his belief they are insufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump, has been a key purveyor of the nonsense idea that Trump could be “reinstated” as president later this year — although he has recently backed off that idea.

He has also spread false claims about Dominion Voting Systems equipment rigging votes, which has resulted in a lawsuit against him.

Yes, he’s nuts, but does he still have Trump’s ear? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Have a great weekend Sky Dancers! As always, this is an open thread.


Thursday Reads

Max Beckman, Woman in Chair Reading at Beach, 1939

Max Beckman, Woman in Chair Reading at Beach, 1939

Good Morning!!

Yesterday Joe Biden got another big win when his infrastructure bill got more than 60 votes to begin consideration in the Senate.

The Washington Post: Bipartisan infrastructure pact clears key Senate vote after breakthrough in talks.

Senate Democrats and Republicans banded together on Wednesday to advance a roughly $1 trillion proposal to improve the country’s aging infrastructure, overcoming months of political deadlock on one of President Biden’s signature economic policy priorities.

The day of breakthroughs began with news of a deal, as a bipartisan bloc of 10 negotiators coalesced around a package to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections. The announcement from some of the group’s leaders, including Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), capped off a series of frenetic talks that nearly collapsed amid behind-the-scenes battles about the new spending and how to pay for it.

With that once-elusive agreement finally in hand, the Senate hours later then took its first formal legislative step. Lawmakers voted 67-32 to put themselves on track to begin debating infrastructure reform this week, clearing the first of many hurdles toward adopting a proposal that the White House has described as historic.

The twin developments marked an early victory for lawmakers who have struggled for years to turn their shared enthusiasm for infrastructure into actual investments in the country’s inner-workings. Several past presidents had called for robust, new public-works spending to replace old pipes and fix cracked bridges, yet only on Wednesday did the Senate actually move toward delivering on those promises….

The news sparked jubilation at the White House, where Biden this spring put forward a roughly $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan funded largely through tax increases that Republicans swiftly rejected. But the administration’s top aides ultimately proved willing to be flexible in the months that followed in how they pursued some of the president’s priorities. Asked about the deal while traveling in Pennsylvania, Biden sounded a hopeful note, telling reporters: “I feel confident about it.”

The infrastructure bill that started moving forward again Wednesday is undeniably large: It calls for new federal spending of about $550 billion, an amount roughly equivalent to the cost of the Interstate Highway System, after adjusting for inflation.

Irving R. Wiles, Sunshine and Shadow Woman

Irving R. Wiles, Sunshine and Shadow Woman

But the bipartisan deal is less than a quarter the size of the $2.6 trillion plan that President Biden proposed in March, which included $2.2 trillion in spending and around $400 billion in tax credits. It’s also significantly smaller than the counteroffer the White House proposed in May, which scaled back spending by $500 billion, and it leaves out many of the Democrats’ biggest ambitions.

Democrats have also put forward a $3.5 trillion budget proposal that they intend to pass through a process known as budget reconciliation, which requires fewer votes.

This budget is expected to contain some of the pieces that were left out of the bipartisan infrastructure agreement — including investments in housing and education; child care; research and development; manufacturing; and clean energy. But moderate and progressive Democrats currently disagree on what will be included.

There were six major areas in Mr. Biden’s original infrastructure proposal: transportationutilitiespollutioninnovationin-home care and buildings. Almost all these areas were scaled back or eliminated in the bipartisan plan, with one exception: pollution cleanup.

Three major areas of President Biden’s original proposal were not included in the bipartisan deal: buildingsin-home care and innovation. The bipartisan plan also left out $363 billion in clean energy tax credits.

Trump Crimes Breaking News

Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett at The Washington Post: As Trump pushed for probes of 2020 election, he called acting AG Rosen almost daily.

President Donald Trump called his acting attorney general nearly every day at the end of last year to alert him to claims of voter fraud or alleged improper vote counts in the 2020 election, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

The personal pressure campaign, which has not been previously reported, involved repeated phone calls to acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen in which Trump raised various allegations he had heard about and asked what the Justice Department was doing about the issue. The people familiar with the conversations spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive legal and political issues that are not yet public.

Rosen told few people about the phone calls, even in his inner circle. But there are notes of some of the calls that were written by a top aide to Rosen, Richard Donoghue, who was present for some of the conversations, these people said.

David Brayne Woman reading

David Brayne, Woman reading

Donoghue’s notes could be turned over to Congress in a matter of days, they added, if Trump does not file papers in court seeking to block such a handover. In addition, both Rosen and Donoghue could be questioned about the conversations by congressional committees examining Trump’s actions in the days after the election.

The Justice Department recently notified Rosen, Donoghue and others who were serving there during the end of Trump’s presidency that the agency would not seek to invoke executive privilege if they are asked about their contacts with the president during that period.

That posture — which the letter to Rosen calls a departure from normal agency practice — means that individuals who are questioned by Congress would not have to say the conversations with the president were off-limits. They would be able to share details that give a firsthand account of Trump’s frantic attempts to overturn the 2020 election and involve the Justice Department in that effort.

January 6 Investigation News

Politico: Jan. 6 select-panel Dems confident they can corral ex-Trump aides.

Lawmakers on the Jan. 6 select committee describe their probe’s reach as still undefined, saying in interviews that they have yet to formalize the confines of an already closely watched and fast-moving investigation. Minutesbefore the panel’s first hearing on Tuesday, however, its members scored a key win thanks to a legal opinion from President Joe Biden’s Justice Department that allowed them to freely seek witness statements from former Trump administration officials.

“That means the likelihood of any resistance from the committee’s work from former [Trump] employees or current employees is not an impediment,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the Jan. 6 probe, said in an interviewThe Biden DOJ’s decision “expedites” the panel’s work digging into the insurrection, he added….

The panel only recently hired its senior staff and launched its website — and it has more work to do before it can seek out potential Trump-adjacent witnesses such as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Woman Reading at a Dressing Table, Henri Matisse, 1919

Woman Reading at a Dressing Table, Henri Matisse, 1919

“I think the true scope of the investigation is still under development,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), a member of the select panel, said in a brief interview. “I know that we will build on work that’s already been done by other committees.” [….]

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), another select committee member, echoed Luria and Thompson about the still-undefined scope of the investigation. But he said it was critical that the panel examine coordination efforts by the extremist groups that marched on the Capitol that day — a process that includes studying the hundreds of criminal prosecutions helmed by the Justice Department.

“[We] want to know who was the ultimate organizer and who paid for all of this action and how did it come about and are they still out there,” Raskin said.

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, who on January 6 told the insurrectionists to “start taking names and kicking ass,” has been busy destroying his own defenses for his actions on the day of the attempted coup.

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Mo Brooks Accidentally Gave Up His Immunity From Eric Swalwell’s Insurrection Lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced that it would not shield Rep. Mo Brooks from Rep. Eric Swalwell’s lawsuit against the fomenters of the Jan. 6 insurrection. The DOJ’s decision may seem surprising: After all, Attorney General Merrick Garland has continued to protect Donald Trump from E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit, signaling a broad view of elected officials’ immunity from civil suits. In Swalwell’s case, however, the Justice Department seized upon comments demonstrating that, at the Jan. 6 rally, Brooks was acting not as an elected official, but as a politician seeking to influence future elections. Ironically, it was Brooks himself who made these statements, under oath, in an effort to evade this very lawsuit. The congressman’s legal defense has turned into a legal liability.

Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), a French painter.

Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), French painter.

Swalwell’s lawsuit marks a serious effort to hold Brooks, Trump, and Rudy Giuliani accountable for their conduct at the rally that preceded—and incited—the Jan. 6 insurrection. He sued all three defendants for civil rights violations, as well as more garden variety misdeeds known as torts. In this case, Brooks’ alleged torts included negligence, aiding and abetting common law assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and bias-related crimes. Brooks sought to dismiss these tort claims by invoking the Westfall Act. Under this statute, a federal official facing a civil suit can ask the Department of Justice to certify that they were acting within the scope of their employment when the alleged tort occurred. If the DOJ agrees, the United States is substituted as the defendant. And because the U.S. cannot be sued for a wide range of torts, that substitution usually ends the case.

Predictably, Brooks asked the Justice Department to certify that he was acting as an employee of the federal government carrying out his official duties at the Jan. 6 rally. This argument is hard to swallow. Then again, so was Trump’s assertion that defaming E. Jean Carroll was a presidential act, yet Garland’s Justice Department still endorsed his theory. What appears to have made the difference in this case is Brooks’ own inadvertent admission that he was acting as a campaigner, not a congressman, on the morning of Jan. 6.

This admission was prompted by a claim at the heart of Swalwell’s lawsuit: that Brooks urged the crowd to commit violence at the Capitol. Central to Swalwell’s theory was a segment of Brooks’ speech in which he declared: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” Brooks continued:

“Now, our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives, to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you: Are you willing to do the same? My answer is yes. Louder! Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America? Louder! Will you fight for America?”

In a long, rambling affidavit, Brooks tried to counter this allegation by reframing his call to begin “kicking ass.” He testified that, in this passage, “I am talking about ‘kicking ass’ in the 2022 and 2024 ELECTIONS!” [….]

This narrative provides perhaps the most self-defeating explanation Brooks could possibly muster at this stage in litigation. As the Justice Department pointed out in its Tuesday filing, “activities specifically directed toward the success of a candidate for a partisan political office in a campaign context” are “not within the scope of the office or employment of a Member of the House of Representatives.” That’s because it is not the “business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections.” Representatives thus cannot invoke the Westfall Act’s protections when they are engaged in “campaign efforts.”

Jim Newell at Slate: Turns Out Mo Brooks Was Wearing Body Armor to Trump’s Very Peaceful Jan. 6 Rally.

Igor Morski, Polish Artist, 1960Back in December, Brooks was the first House Republican to say ahead of the congressional Electoral College certification that he would object to certain states’ electors. On the day of the certification, Jan. 6, he then gave a fiery speech at President Donald Trump’s rally at the Ellipse where he told the assembled crowd that “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” Months later, he still argues that Trump would have won the election if only “lawful votes” were counted.

Brooks, like Republican leaders who tried to counterprogram the hearing with a press conference yesterday, thinks a proper investigation would look at why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office wasn’t “doing a better job with respect to the Capitol Police and their level of preparation.”

Then, to prove his point about preparation, he revealed a new detail to me: that because of a tip he’d received about potential violence, he’d been wearing body armor at the very same Ellipse speech in which he encouraged rally attendees to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”

“I was warned on Monday that there might be risks associated with the next few days,” he said. “And as a consequence of those warnings, I did not go to my condo. Instead, I slept on the floor of my office. And when I gave my speech at the Ellipse, I was wearing body armor.

“That’s why I was wearing that nice little windbreaker,” he told me with a grin. “To cover up the body armor.”

Who was this source? The Committee is probably going to want to hear from Brooks about all this.

Could it have been this guy?

I have a few more links to add in the comments. What’s on your mind today? This is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Arsen Kurbanov2

Arsen Kurbanov, Russian artist

Good Morning!!

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the case against Trump ally Tom Barrack, who was arrested on Tuesday and charged with acting as an agent of a foreign power. Politico:

Tom Barrack, a longtime supporter of and adviser to former President Donald Trump, was arrested Tuesday on charges he secretly acted in the U.S. as an agent for the United Arab Emirates.

Barrack, 74, is accused of failing to register as a foreign agent, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and four counts of making false statements to the FBI.

A federal indictment issued by a grand jury in Brooklyn, N.Y., charged that Barrack put pro-UAE language into a Trump campaign speech in May 2016, took direction from UAE officials about what to say in media appearances and an op-ed piece he published just before the 2016 election, and agreed to promote a candidate for ambassador to UAE backed by UAE officials.

Prosecutors say Barrack used his insider access to White House officials that he gained through roles like his position as chair of Trump’s inaugural committee to give the UAE “non-public information about the views and reactions of senior U.S. government officials following a White House meeting between senior U.S. officials and senior UAE officials.”

Also charged in the case were an aide to Barrack at his investment firm Colony Capital, Matthew Grimes, and a businessman from UAE, Rashid Al-Malik.

Prosecutors allege that early in the Trump administration, Barrack sought to be appointed to a high-profile role in Middle East policy, while telling his allies in UAE that such an appointment would be good for them.

“In his communications with Al Malik, the defendant framed his efforts to obtain an official position within the Administration as one that would enable him to further advance the interests of the UAE, rather than the interests of the United States,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

wilma-with-a-cat-1940.jpg!Large

Carel Willink, Wilma with a cat, 1940

 

Barrack has now been released on a massive bail and will have to wear a gps monitoring bracelet. CNN: Trump ally Tom Barrack strikes a $250 million bail deal to get out of jail.

A federal magistrate judge on Friday ordered Tom Barrack, a longtime associate of former President Donald Trump who was indicted earlier this week on charges of illegal foreign lobbying, released from jail pending trial, freeing him on a bail package that includes a $250 million bond secured by $5 million in cash.

The judge also ordered Barrack to wear a GPS location monitoring bracelet, barred him from transferring any funds overseas and restricted his travel to parts of Southern California and New York. He will have a curfew to be determined by pretrial services.

He must appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Monday, where he will be arraigned. A spokesman has said he intends to plead not guilty.

Barrack and co-defendant Matthew Grimes were released from custody later Friday, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

The judge on Friday had also ordered Grimes on a $5 million bond. Grimes will be subject to GPS location monitoring with an electronic bracelet and travel restriction.

As a number of experts have pointed out, Barrack is not simply charged with failing to register as a foreign agent; he is accused of actually helping a foreign power influence U.S. policy. He’s charged under the same statute used to prosecute Russian spy Maria Butina. Emptywheel has been covering this story if you want to go deeper into the details.

Also see these Emptywheel pieces: Paul Manafort Shared Trump Energy Speech with Tom Barrack and Paul Manafort Knew Tom Barrack Was Working with “Our Friends”

Columnist Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: A Foreign Agent in Trump’s Inner Circle?

…[W]hen the billionaire real estate investor Tom Barrack, one of Trump’s biggest fund-raisers, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates along with other felonies, it might have seemed like a dog-bites-man story. Barrack was once described by longtime Trump strategist Roger Stone — a felon, naturally — as the ex-president’s best friend. If you knew nothing else about Barrack but that, you might have guessed he’d end up in handcuffs.

Nevertheless, Barrack’s arrest is important. Trump’s dealings with the Emirates and Saudi Arabia deserve to be investigated as thoroughly as his administration’s relationship with Russia. So far, that hasn’t happened. When Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, testified before Congress, Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said to him, “We did not bother to ask whether financial inducements from any Gulf nations were influencing U.S. policy, since it is outside the four corners of your report, and so we must find out.” But we have not found out.

A Barrack trial, if the case goes that far, is unlikely to answer all the outstanding questions about how Gulf money shaped Trump policy. But it could answer some.

Portrait of Edward Gorey by Sam Kalda

Portrait of Edward Gorey by Sam Kalda

Let’s recall that Russia was not the only nation to send emissaries to Trump Tower during the presidential campaign offering election help. The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Russian election interference discusses an August 2016 Trump Tower meeting whose attendees included Donald Trump Jr., George Nader, then an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the Emirates’ de facto ruler, and Joel Zamel, owner of an Israeli private intelligence company, Psy-Group. (Nader is currently in prison for child sex trafficking and possession of child pornography.)

“Zamel asked Trump Jr. whether Psy-Group’s conducting a social media campaign paid for by Nader would present a conflict for the Trump campaign,” said the Senate report. “According to Zamel, Trump Jr. indicated that this would not present a conflict.”

Zamel told the committee that his company never actually performed such work. “Nonetheless, as described below, Zamel engaged in work on behalf of Nader, for which he was paid in excess of $1 million,” said the report. Zamel claimed the payment was for a postelection social media analysis, all copies of which were ostensibly deleted.

If the allegations in the Barrack indictment are true, it means that while an adviser to the Emirates was offering the Trump campaign election help, an Emirati agent was also shaping Trump’s foreign policy, even inserting the country’s preferred language into one of the candidate’s speeches. Prosecutors say that Barrack told a high-level figure they call “Emirati Official 2” that he had staffed the Trump campaign. (It was Barrack who recommended Paul Manafort, later to be convicted of multiple felonies, to Trump.) When an Emirati official asked Barrack if he had information about senior Trump appointees, Barrack allegedly replied, “I do” and said they should talk by phone. He is said to have traveled to the Emirates to strategize with its leadership about what they wanted from the administration during its first 100 days, first six months, first year and first term.

Read more at the NYT.

Yesterday Dakinikat focused on the latest pandemic news as well as the growing anger against the idiots who are refusing to be vaccinated. I want to follow up on a some of the stories she posted. First, in the comment thread, she posted a horrifying story about an anti-mask demonstration at a cancer clinic.

Here’s more on that from Vice News: Breast Cancer Patient Attacked by Violent Anti-Mask Protest Outside Clinic.

A breast cancer patient says she was sprayed with bear mace, physically assaulted, and verbally abused outside a cancer treatment center in West Hollywood, Los Angeles by far-right activists who were angry over the clinic’s mandatory mask policy. 

Andrea Kowch, Queen's Court, 2019

Andrea Kowch, Queen’s Court, 2019

Dozens of anti-maskers holding signs with anti-vaxx and QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories amassed on the sidewalk by the Cedars-Sinai Breast Health Services building on Thursday afternoon, and harassed patients and doctors. 

In one exchange captured by local videographer Vishal Singh, a woman who has since publicly identified herself as Kate Burns, a cancer patient, approached the protesters and told them to leave. 

“I get treated here, get the fuck away,” Burns said. 

One protester, who was filming the scene on his phone, asked her why she was so angry, as a man holding a cardboard sign saying “End the Censorship of Vaccine Risks” smirked. 

“Because I’ve just gone through fucking breast cancer,” Burns said. “And you motherfuckers are here.” 

After a few more exchanges, the a “protester” actually punched Burns in the chest.

Tensions continued to rise as more far-right, anti-maskers arrived on the scene. A small group of anti-fascists also arrived, and got into altercations with the far-right. A woman holding a megaphone shoved Burns, and then punched her several times. Burns said, on social media, that the woman hit her in the chest and struck her scars….

Thursday was the second time that anti-maskers had targeted that particular breast cancer clinic over its mask policy. The ugly scenes and casual political violence that unfolded there on both occasions have become troublingly common across the U.S. 

Can someone explain to me why unvaccinated athletes are being permitted to compete in the Olympic games? NBC News: About 100 U.S. athletes in Tokyo unvaccinated as Covid-hit Olympics begin.

Five out of 6 U.S. athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympics have been vaccinated against Covid-19, the team’s top doctor revealed Friday just before the Games officially begin.

That information was culled from the health histories that 567 of the athletes filled out before they departed for Japan, said Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, who estimated that 83 percent of those competitors were fully vaccinated.

“Eighty-three percent is actually a substantial number, and we’re quite happy with it,” Finnoff, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s medical chief, said.

That’s higher than the national rate, with about 56 percent of Americans having received at least one dose of a vaccine. But it still means that about 100 of the total contingent of 613 U.S. athletes have not yet been vaccinated.

The news came as the opening ceremony of the pandemic-hit Games got underway in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, marking the official launch of the global sporting event.

But why aren’t they all vaccinated? This makes no sense to me. We really need to stop coddling these holdouts. They are putting themselves and everyone else in danger.

Chelin Sanjuan Piquero, Spanish artist

Chelin Sanjuan Piquero, Spanish artist

Dan Diamond and Tyler Pager at The Washington Post: ‘Patience has worn thin’: Frustration mounts over vaccine holdouts.

Seven months after the first coronavirus shots were rolled out, vaccinated Americans — including government, business and health leaders — are growing frustrated that tens of millions of people are still refusing to get them, endangering themselves and their communities and fueling the virus’s spread.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Thursday lashed out amid a surge of cases in her state, telling a reporter it’s “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks.” The National Football League this week imposed new rules that put pressure on unvaccinated players, warning their teams could face fines or be forced to forfeit games if those players were linked to outbreaks.

“I think for a lot of leaders, both in government and in business, patience has worn thin,” said Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist. “There is an urgency that might not have been there a month ago.”

Meanwhile, exhausted health providers say they are bracing for casespikes that are largely preventable, driven by the hyper-transmissible delta variant. “We are frustrated, tired and worried for this next surge — and saddened by the state we find ourselves in,” said Jason Yaun, a Memphis-based pediatrician, who said his colleagues are grappling with an “accumulation of fatigue” since the outbreak exploded in March 2020.

Biden administration officials increasingly frame the current outbreak as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” seeking to persuade and perhaps even frighten some holdouts to get the shots.

But after months of careful cajoling, a growing number of Democrats and Republicans are venting about the sheer number of Americans who remain unvaccinated, particularly as hospitals are becoming overwhelmed in states with low vaccination rates.

Read the rest at the WaPo. These people need to grow up!

That’s all I have for you today. What’s on your mind?


Friday Reads: The Final Days

Andrea Kowch, Soiree

Soiree, by Andrea Kowch

Good Morning!!

The revelations about Trump’s final days just keep on coming. The Washington Post released another excerpt from the book by their reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig yesterday, and today The New Yorker a piece by Susan Glasser, who apparently has a book coming out next year. 

Among the stunning details in the Rucker/Leonnig excerpt is that Mike Pence didn’t trust all of the the members of his Secret Service detail, seemingly suspecting that they were aiding Trump’s attempted coup. 

At 2:13, Pence’s Secret Service detail removed the vice president from the Senate floor and took him through a side door to his ceremonial office nearby, along with his wife, Karen, their daughter Charlotte, and his brother, Greg, a congressman from Indiana. The Pences were hurried across one of the Capitol’s many ornate marble hallways to get there, but the path proved eerily close to danger. One or two minutes later, marauders chanting Pence’s name charged up the stairs to that precise landing in front of the hallway, and a quick-thinking Goodman led the rioters in a different direction, away from the Senate chamber. Had Pence walked past any later, the intruders who called him a traitor would have spotted him….

As rioters marauded through the Capitol, it was clear whom they were looking for. Some of them shouted, “Hang Mike Pence!” Trump didn’t exactly throw them off the hunt. At 2:24, the president tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

At that moment, Pence was still in his ceremonial office — protected by Secret Service agents, but vulnerable because the second-floor office had windows that could be breached and the intruding thugs had gained control of the building. Tim Giebels, the lead special agent in charge of the vice president’s protective detail, twice asked Pence to evacuate the Capitol, but Pence refused. “I’m not leaving the Capitol,” he told Giebels. The last thing the vice president wanted was the people attacking the Capitol to see his 20-car motorcade fleeing. That would only vindicate their insurrection.

The third time Giebels asked Pence to evacuate, it was more of an order than a request. “They’re in the building,” Giebels said. “The room you’re in is not secure. There are glass windows. I need to move you. We’re going.”

At 2:26, after a team of agents scouted a safe path to ensure the Pences would not encounter trouble, Giebels and the rest of Pence’s detail guided them down a staircase to a secure subterranean area that rioters couldn’t reach, where the vice president’s armored limousine awaited. Giebels asked Pence to get in one of the vehicles. “We can hold here,” he said.

“I’m not getting in the car, Tim,” Pence replied. “I trust you, Tim, but you’re not driving the car. If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off. I’m not getting in the car.”

The Pences then made their way to a secure underground area to wait out the riot.

Much as I can’t stand Pence, he did the right thing on that terrible day.

As we’ve learned, General Milly also came through, and even the much hated Bill Barr refused to support Trump’s authoritarian obsession.

Meanwhile, Trump was excitedly watching the MAGA attack on TV. He couldn’t have cared less that the Vice President and hundreds of Congresspeople were in danger.

Back at the White House, [Pence’s national security adviser, Retired Lt. General Keith] Kellogg was worried about Pence’s safety and went to find Trump.

“Is Mike okay?” the president asked him.

“The Secret Service has him under control,”  Kellogg told Trump. “Karen is there with the daughter.”

“Oh?” Trump asked.

“They’re going to stay there until this thing gets sorted out,” Kellogg said.

john-singer-sargent-a-siesta-young-girls

A Siesta, by John Singer Sargent

Trump said nothing more. He didn’t express any hope that Pence was okay. He didn’t try to call the vice president to check on him. He just stayed in the dining room watching television.

Around this time, Kellogg ran into Tony Ornato in the West Wing. Ornato, who oversaw Secret Service movements, told him that Pence’s detail was planning to move the vice president to Joint Base Andrews.

“You can’t do that, Tony,” Kellogg said. “Leave him where he’s at. He’s got a job to do. I know you guys too well. You’ll fly him to Alaska if you have a chance. Don’t do it.”

Pence had made clear to Giebels the level of his determination and Kellogg said there was no changing it.

“He’s going to stay there,” Kellogg told Ornato. “If he has to wait there all night, he’s going to do it.”

At this point, can anyone seriously doubt that Trump would have been OK with his thugs hanging Pence? Pence and Kellogg need to testify under oath before the January 6 committee.

If you haven’t read the Washington Post article yet, please do.

General Mark Milley was a significant source for the Rucker/Leonnig book, and he apparently talked extensively to Susan Glasser as well. Glasser writes at The New Yorker: “You’re Gonna Have a Fucking War”: Mark Milley’s Fight to Stop Trump from Striking Iran.

The last time that General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with President Donald Trump was on January 3, 2021. The subject of the Sunday-afternoon meeting, at the White House, was Iran’s nuclear program. For the past several months, Milley had been engaged in an alarmed effort to insure that Trump did not embark on a military conflict with Iran as part of his quixotic campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election and remain in power. The chairman secretly feared that Trump would insist on launching a strike on Iranian interests that could set off a full-blown war.

There were two “nightmare scenarios,” Milley told associates, for the period after the November 3rd election, which resulted in Trump’s defeat but not his concession: one was that Trump would try “to use the military on the streets of America to prevent the legitimate, peaceful transfer of power.” The other was an external crisis involving Iran. It was not public at the time, but Milley believed that the nation had come close—“very close”—to conflict with the Islamic Republic. This dangerous post-election period, Milley said, was all because of Trump’s “Hitler”-like embrace of the “Big Lie” that the election had been stolen from him; Milley feared it was Trump’s “Reichstag moment,” in which, like Adolf Hitler in 1933, he would manufacture a crisis in order to swoop in and rescue the nation from it.

Study for the Pigeons, by Henry Koerner

Study for the Pigeons, by Henry Koerner

To prevent such an outcome, Milley had, since late in 2020, been having morning phone meetings, at 8 a.m. on most days, with the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the hopes of getting the country safely through to Joe Biden’s Inauguration. The chairman, a burly four-star Army general who had been appointed to the post by Trump in 2019, referred to these meetings with his staff as the “land the plane” calls—as in, “both engines are out, the landing gear are stuck, we’re in an emergency situation. Our job is to land this plane safely and to do a peaceful transfer of power the 20th of January.”

This extraordinary confrontation between the nation’s top military official and the Commander-in-Chief had been building throughout 2020. Before the election, Milley had drafted a plan for how to handle the perilous period leading up to the Inauguration. He outlined four goals: first, to make sure that the U.S. didn’t unnecessarily go to war overseas; second, to make sure that U.S. troops were not used on the streets of America against the American people, for the purpose of keeping Trump in power; third, to maintain the military’s integrity; and, lastly, to maintain his own integrity. He referred back to them often in conversations with others.

As the crisis with Trump unfolded, and the chairman’s worst-case fears about the President not accepting defeat seemed to come true, Milley repeatedly met in private with the Joint Chiefs. He told them to make sure there were no unlawful orders from Trump and not to carry out any such orders without calling him first—almost a conscious echo of the final days of Richard Nixon, when Nixon’s Defense Secretary, James Schlesinger, reportedly warned the military not to act on any orders from the White House to launch a nuclear strike without first checking with him or with the national-security adviser, Henry Kissinger. At one meeting with the Joint Chiefs, in Milley’s Pentagon office, the chairman invoked Benjamin Franklin’s famous line, saying they should all hang together. To concerned members of Congress—including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—and also emissaries from the incoming Biden Administration, Milley also put out the word: Trump might attempt a coup, but he would fail because he would never succeed in co-opting the American military. “Our loyalty is to the U.S. Constitution,” Milley told them, and “we are not going to be involved in politics.”

Read the rest at The New Yorker.

Raw Story has an investigative article on the January 6 Capitol attack: Anatomy of an insurrection: How military veterans and other rioters carried out the Jan. 6 assault on democracy, by Jordan Green.

The slow-moving tedium of prosecutorial legal machinery and the GOP campaign to deflect responsibility can make it easy to lose sight of the big picture of what transpired on Jan. 6. But based on an aggregate review of individuals cases, along with other sources, a Raw Story analysis of the critical events in the Jan. 6 siege reveals a striking degree of coordination, sustained and intentional violence, planning and preparation, and determined effort to disable the United States’ critical governance apparatus by participants, including many with recent military experience. Many of the rioters who played critical roles in breaching the Capitol came away from the experience vowing to wage war against the United States. Few among those who are being prosecuted have expressed any remorse for their actions.

William Haskell

Day Trip, by William Haskell

Amid the hundreds of prosecutions of Trump supporters motivated by the big lie, the GOP has punished lawmakers who fail to bear allegiance to the former president and run afoul of the party line that the election was stolen, while thwarting the House investigation into the events of Jan. 6. GOP intransigence makes it likely that the Democratic-led investigation will become reduced to another partisan snipe-fest, undermining its potential to hold people accountable and prevent future attempts to overturn democracy….

A handful of defendants, including Oath Keepers members, have pleaded guilty, as fresh arrests fatten the docket weekly. Those recently charged are not minor players: In addition to people who trashed media equipment and assaulted reporters, they include the first boogaloo-identified rioter, with hints that there are more to come, and a man who organized a resistance cell under the cover of a Bible study. Critically, the FBI has yet to make an arrest for bombs that were planted outside the Democratic and Republican headquarters on the eve of the insurrection. Even under the most optimistic scenario, the prosecutions are likely to drag on for years: Among the few cases set for trial, white nationalist Christian Secor isn’t scheduled to begin deliberations until January 2022.

Beyond the chaotic events that took place when hundreds of Trump supporters unleashed mayhem on the Capitol, it remains unknown to what degree, if any, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers coordinated their actions. And beyond Trump’s feverish promotion of the Jan. 6 “Save America” rally and instruction to his followers to “walk down to the Capitol,” it also remains to be seen whether the siege may have been directed by the president or his surrogates through intermediaries such as Trump confidant Roger Stone or “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander.

Notably, the mob began its advance on the Capitol well before Trump had finished speaking at the Ellipse, suggesting that key players had decided in advance to disrupt the certification of the electoral vote, while Trump’s exhortations mobilized thousands more to reinforce the riot that was already unfolding at the seat of American government.

This is a very long and interesting article. I hope you’ll check it out.

I’m sorry to have to keep focusing on Trump news, but that’s what’s out there today. As always, this is an open thread. What’s on your mind?


Thursday Reads: Trump Continues to Threaten U.S. Democracy

Good Morning!!

I wish I could stop reading and writing about Donald Trump; but I can’t, because he continues to be a serious threat to U.S. Democracy. Yesterday was the six-month anniversary of the Capitol insurrection that Trump incited. Republicans are pretending it was no big deal, and Trump is moving toward celebrating it as a patriotic exercise. 

Over the weekend, Trump began demanding the name of the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt and defending her actions on January 6. From Philip Bump at The Washington Post:

The man who shot Babbitt has become a target of fury as Babbitt has increasingly been cast as something of a martyr for the day’s cause. Because that cause was Trumpism, Trump himself has spoken of Babbitt more and more often.

At a rally in Florida over the weekend, he demanded to make public the name of the person who had fired the bullet.

“People know the name. People know where he came from,” he said. “Now if that were on the other side” — meaning, not on Trump’s side — “the person who did the shooting would be strung up and hung.”

He reiterated the theme at a news conference on Wednesday.

“The person that shot Ashli Babbitt — boom, right through the head,” Trump said. “Just, boom. … They’ve already written it off. They said that case is closed. If that were the opposite, that case would be going on for years and years, and it would not be pretty.”

(Babbitt was not shot in the head. She was shot in the neck.)

Importantly, Trump also said that there was “no reason” for Babbitt’s having been shot. When protesters were outside the White House in May 2020, crossing the fence would have meant being mauled by dogs or otherwise being “really badly hurt, at least.” But a member of a huge, violent mob surging into a secure area of the Capitol that tried to press forward toward evacuating legislators? No reason for law enforcement to use deadly force.

This, at its heart, is Trump’s view of justice. Those on his side are exempt from accountability for their actions. Those on the other side, however, most be dealt with harshly — more harshly than the law allows.

Trump also demanded to know why people who participated in the insurrection are still in jail. It’s obvious that he is trying to recast the attack on the Capitol as a patriotic effort to save democracy, and many Republicans will follow his lead. It’s already happening in Florida. Raw Story: Florida GOP rally will call for release of ‘political prisoners’ charged in Capitol insurrection.

One week after former president Donald Trump visited Florida and questioned why so many accused Capitol rioters are still in jail, his supporters in the Sunshine State will gather on Saturday to call for the release of “political prisoners” charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Florida has more people charged in the insurrection than any other state, including the most defendants connected to right-wing groups the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, according to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

Saturday’s “Free Our Patriots Rally in Tally” outside the state Capitol will call on Republican Gov. Ron Desantis “to demand immediate release of the incarcerated patriots and to use all the power and leverage at his disposal to make this happen.”

The event is being organized in part by Luis Miguel, a far-right candidate who is challenging Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the GOP primary.

“Folks, The patriots who have been hunted down by the corrupt, communist FBI are suffering,” Miguel wrote on Twitter. “Many of them are veterans who fought for this nation. Let’s do our part to ensure they’re liberated. We can’t allow this in America. Be there at the Florida Capitol July 10.”

Another organizer of the rally is Angel Harrelson, the wife of former Army Sgt. Kenneth Troy Harrelson, an admitted member of the Oath Keepers who remains behind bars after being charged in the insurrection.

Angel Harrelson told a YouTube radio program this week that among other things, she plans to play a recording of her husband and other alleged insurrectionists singing the national anthem over the phone from jail.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: The Chilling Message of Trump’s Embrace of Ashli Babbitt Martyrdom.

Babbitt’s death, while tragic, occurred for a very good reason. The Air Force veteran, who had been fully converted into the most dangerous and fantastical pro-Trump conspiracy theories, had joined the aggressive vanguard of the January 6 insurrection. Babbitt died trying to squeeze through the smashed window of a barricaded door that led to the inner sanctum where members of Congress were hiding from the mob.

Talia Lavin’s profile of Babbitt, in the current issue of the magazine, notes her emergence as a martyr on the far right. As Lavin points out, Babbitt is not the only Trump supporter who lost her life during the insurrection. Rosanne Boyland also died, but the manner of her death — trampling by the mob — does not serve the same propagandistic purpose. The whole point of Babbitt’s centrality is that she was leading the mob violently forward toward its goal of threatening or killing officials who refused to cooperate with their objective of overturning the election result.

It is revealing that Trump has only taken up Babbitt’s cause now, six months after the insurrection. In the immediate aftermath of the riot, Republicans were briefly furious enough to contemplate writing Trump out of the party and even voting to impeach him. Then they decided not to expunge him, and to hope the ugly events simply faded from memory. A few months later, they decided to purge Liz Cheney, allegedly because she refused to let go of the insurrection. Shortly after that, the party voted to block a bipartisan investigation of the insurrection.

All the political momentum is on Trump’s side. He has slowly turned January 6 from a black mark that threatened to expunge him from Republican politics, to a regrettable episode that his allies preferred to leave behind, to a glorious uprising behind which he could rally his adherents….

By throwing himself behind this message, Trump is endorsing the most radical interpretation of his presidency. January 6 was not a minor misstep after a successful era, as fans like Mike Pence and Lindsey Graham now say. It was the heroic culmination of a righteous uprising.

Wajahat Ali at The Daily Beast: Why Trump Is Anointing Ashli Babbitt as MAGA’s First Martyr.

We’ve all heard the old adage that “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

With Ashli BabbittDonald Trump and the GOP have found a perfect martyr to rationalize their perpetual victimhood and inspire future “freedom fighters” to assist in their full-scale assault on democracy.

Babbitt was one of thousands of Trump supporters who decided to join the violent insurrection on Jan. 6 and overrun the U.S. Capitol in hopes of canceling a free and fair election. She was shot by a Capitol police officer while climbing through a broken window on a door that led to the Speaker’s Lobby. She died while wearing a Trump flag as a cape.

The pointless death of the 35-year-old Air Force veteran came in the service of Trump’s Big Lie, but his party has shown no contrition. Rather, Republicans are cynically exploiting her death to fuel their dangerous quest for power at all costs.

In April, the police officer who fatally shot Babbitt was cleared of criminal wrongdoing. His identity has not been released due to death threats that inevitably increased after Trump released a one-line statement last week asking “Who Shot Ashli Babbit?” That echoed Rep. Paul Gosar, an ally of avowed white supremacists, who accused the police officer of supposedly “lying in wait” to “execute” Babbitt….

The pointless death of the 35-year-old Air Force veteran came in the service of Trump’s Big Lie, but his party has shown no contrition. Rather, Republicans are cynically exploiting her death to fuel their dangerous quest for power at all costs….

The goal is to keep enraging and confusing their base, convince them of a far-reaching “Deep State” conspiracy committed to depriving them of power and glory and “replacing” them, and deflect from the Jan. 6 investigations that will further document the extremist elements embedded within the GOP and conservative movement.

Ali argues that Babbitt is the perfect martyr for Trump’s and the GOP’s purposes.

Babbitt—a woman, a wife, an Air Force veteran, and a true believer for Trump who, according to them, was “assassinated” by the “Deep State”—is an ideal character to glorify in death for a conservative movement that has turned into a racket and cult, a “victim” who can no longer speak for herself and can thus embody whatever fiction and grievance they want to promote.

On right-wing social media platforms she is being called “the first victim of the second Civil War” and a “freedom fighter.” Until last week, Sears and Kmart were selling “Ashli Babbitt American Patriot” T-shirts on their websites. Even Vladimir Putin is getting in on the action to deflect from his own abuses of power. When asked by NBC News’ Keir Simmons if he ordered the assassination of political dissident Alexei Navalny, Putin hit back, “Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?”

How comforting to know that Putin shares the same script and talking points as Trump, Gosar, and right-wing media personalities.

Ultimately, the purpose of anointing Ashli Babbitt, and demonizing the officer who shot her in the process, is to justify the GOP’s goal of attacking our democratic institutions to ensure minority rule. If the base believes that they are being prosecuted, oppressed and even “assassinated” like Babbitt, then they will justify any and all means to reject Democratic rule and future elections that deprive them of power.

There’s no doubt that U.S. democracy is in danger as long as Republicans remain in thrall to Trump. I’ll end with this piece from NBC News: What’s keeping democracy experts up most at night? An overturned election.

There’s no legal avenue for Trump to reverse the 2020 results. But a half-dozen scholars who study democracy and election laws told NBC News they are increasingly worried that 2024 could be a repeat of 2020, only with a party further remade in the former president’s image and better equipped to sow disorder during the process and even potentially overturn the results.

“Obviously the insurrection was horrific in its violence and assault on democracy, but it didn’t disrupt the true winner of the election,” said Edward B. Foley, a professor at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University who researches election law. “What you don’t want is it to have been a rehearsal.”

Nightmare scenarios include local or state officials refusing to certify votes, governors and state legislatures submitting electoral votes that disagree with each other or overrule the apparent vote counts, fights over the legitimacy of judges overseeing the process and the House and Senate disagreeing on the winner. A chaotic transition could create an opening for further violence, either from extremists attempting to disrupt the process again or mass unrest if the winner is viewed as illegitimate.

“We should not pretend these dangers are fantastical or that these are absurd hypotheticals,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “Given what we saw Trump actually do in 2020, these things are now within the realm of possibility and need to be legislated against and organized against so we have a fair election process going forward.”

A bit more:

New and proposed laws in states like Georgia and Arizona have sought to wrest power from state and local election officials, some of whom played a role in resisting the former president’s demands last election.

Republicans face significant pressure from their base to make these types of systemic changes — and potentially go much further. Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the New America foundation, released survey data last month that found 46 percent of Republicans supported empowering state legislatures to overturn election results in states President Joe Biden won, as Trump demanded they do in 2020….

Some observers worry the party’s increased willingness to even entertain these scenarios could create perverse incentives in which state or local officials try to boost the odds of a poorly administered election that would give partisan leaders more flexibility to intervene….

In 2020, every governor and state legislature accepted the election results, but the midterms could reshuffle the landscape. Trump has sought to punish Republican incumbents like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with primary challenges. Trump has also lashed out at otherwise supportive Republican legislators in states like Wisconsin and Michigan who have affirmed the results.

“The fact that it held in 2020 doesn’t guarantee it will hold in 2024,” Omar Wasow, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University, said. “You need ethical people in these jobs, and we’re seeing a lot of ethical people leaving in part because they’ve been threatened or attacked by partisans or because the level of vitriol they’ve been subject to is not worth the effort.”

The whole article is well worth reading.

That’s it for me today. Please let me know what you think. As always, this is an open thread.